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Emu
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  A Journal of BirdLife Australia
 
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 Just Accepted

This article has been peer reviewed and accepted for publication. It is in production and has not been edited, so may differ from the final published form.


High frequency but low impact of brood parasitism by the specialist Screaming Cowbird on its primary host, the Baywing

María Cecilia De Mársico, Juan Reboreda

Abstract

Brood parasitic cowbirds (Molothrus spp.) exploit the parental care of other species (hosts) that raise their offspring. Cowbird parasitism reduces host reproductive success in several ways and quantifying such costs is an important step to better understand evolutionary interactions in host-parasite associations. We estimated the costs of parasitism by the host-specialist Screaming Cowbird (M. rufoaxillaris) to the reproductive success of its primary host, the Baywing (Agelaioides badius). We tested the effect of cowbird parasitism on Baywings' egg survival, hatching success, nestling survival and body mass at fledging in a Baywing population of eastern Argentina where frequency of parasitism by Screaming Cowbirds exceeds 90% of Baywing nests. Egg survival decreased with the number of Screaming Cowbird eggs laid during the egg stage and, on average, host clutch size was reduced by 10% per parasitic event. However, contrary to our expectations, we did not find any clear effect of parasitism on Baywings' hatching success, nestling survival and body mass at fledging. Our results suggest that, despite its high frequency, Screaming Cowbird parasitism has a relatively low impact on the viability of Baywing offspring. We discuss how host’s clutch rejection behaviour and flexible nest provisioning rules might help to explain this paradoxical result.

MU14008  Accepted 26 May 2014
 
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